A Step in the Right Direction: Reducing Misawa’s Carbon Footprint and Enabling Energy Independence

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Leon Redfern
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

In the midst of protecting U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific region, defending Japan and deterring adversaries; Misawa Air Base is taking action to simultaneously overcome a different enemy – climate change.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as climate change worsens, people around the world can suffer from dangerous weather events becoming more frequent or severe; damage to the economy; and diminished agriculture, water and air quality.

U.S. Air Force Col. Jesse J. Friedel, 35th Fighter Wing commander, alongside members from the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron, showcased the nearly completed $206 million Energy Savings Performance Contract at Misawa Air Base, Japan, June 8, 2022. The contract included stops at the Misawa Air Base solar field and natural gas plant.

Yoshinori Kohiyama, Misawa City mayor, and Andrew Lee, U.S. Consulate General of Sapporo consul general, attended the event to view and learn about the contract, which will dramatically reduce the base’s carbon footprint and lessen the burden on the greater Misawa community’s power grid.

“The 35th Fighter Wing has 27 green initiatives that speak to our commitment to being good stewards of the environment,” Friedel said. “Projects like the solar farm are the basis for clean and independent energy generation, which allows for Misawa Air Base to be completely autonomous in the event that energy from our surrounding community is not available.”

The Energy Savings Performance Contract currently contains two major on-base projects:

The first project, which was initiated in 2018 and is now nearing completion, is a solar field which reduces installation energy demand by 35 percent. Equipped with 18,000 solar panels, it will soon provide up to six megawatts of electricity going directly to Misawa Air Base’s power grid.

“This action by Misawa Air Base aligns with President Biden’s commitment for the United States to lead by example in tackling the climate crisis, while working with allies and close partners like Japan to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and reduce emissions,” Lee said. “I’m proud to see Misawa Air Base working together with Misawa City’s residents in our shared fight against climate change.”

The solar panels will also help combat greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the collective dependence on fossil fuel by providing a clean and renewable source of energy, ultimately improving air quality, human health and preventing further climate change. Additionally, solar power does not rely on fossil fuels and may be stored on the base power grid for future use, allowing Misawa to save costs.

Alongside the solar field, Misawa Air Base is currently scheduled to complete their second project in 2023, the U.S. Air Force’s first natural gas plant. The natural gas plant will burn cleaner than diesel fuel, while projecting to reduce nitrogen oxides by 43 percent, carbon dioxide by 25 percent and sulfur oxides by 100 percent, further reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Before this tour,” Kohiyama said, “I looked at Misawa Air Base solely as a defense force partner; and now I fully appreciate the U.S. government in their efforts to generate 70-80 percent of the installation's entire energy in order to ease the burden on Japan’s energy sector.”